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Nokia 7 Plus review: Reliability plus stock Android make it this year's best mid-range smartphone

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 28 May 2018, 18:33 IST
(Sahil Bhalla/Catch News)

It was in 2017 when HMD Global got us truly excited. Nokia had ended its partnership with Microsoft and its line of Windows Mobile smartphones. HMD Global gladly took over the mantle. HMD Global promised us Nokia smartphones with Google smarts.

The problem with the first batch of smartphones released by HMD Global was that they were underpowered and hence severely lagged. Their cameras weren’t up to scratch and they simply relied on longevity (two days battery life) and a gorgeous design.

Fast forward to 2018. HMD Global has righted almost everything wrong with their new line of smartphones unleashed upon Indian consumers in early April. I’ve taken HMD Global’s midrange, the Nokia 7 Plus for a spin for three weeks and have come out mightily impressed.

It costs Rs 25,999, significantly cheaper than an Honor 10 or a OnePlus 6. The new Nokia 7 plus competes with phones like Moto X4, Vivo V9 and Oppo F9 and last years Honor VIew 10 to name a few.

In case you don’t want to read the full review below, here’s the TL;dr version. The Nokia 7 Plus punches above its weight and delivers a knockout blow to the competition. This is the only mid-range smartphone that should be on your radar. Period. Don’t hold your breath for anything to outdo it in the next couple of months. Trust me, there is nothing on the horizon and the Nokia 7 Plus will rule the roost for much of the remainder of 2018.

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Specifications

The Nokia 7 Plus is no lean machine but it has a lot going for it in terms of its hardware.

The Nokia 7 Plus is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor and a 3,800 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0. It has made the switch to the 18:9 form factor. There is now a 6.0-inch FHD+ (2160x1080 resolution) display that is backed by Gorilla Glass 3. There is 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

As for the camera arrangement, well, there is a dual 12-megapixel camera on the back (same as the Nokia 8 Sirocco). The secondary telephoto lens offers 2x optical zoom. On the front, there is a 5-megapixel camera. The camera feature Carl Zeiss optics.

Other specifications include Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi ac, USB-C Gen 2.0. The Nokia 7 Plus is built with series 6000 aluminium and has a ceramic coating at the back.

There are two colour options - black and white - and the phone sells for Rs 25,999.

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A breath of fresh air

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been in both Delhi and Bombay, and I’ve been carrying around the Nokia 7 Plus with me, along with some other smartphones. Each and every time I kept my Nokia 7 Plus on face down, people would come up to me and ask me which phone it was. Once they picked it up, they were taken aback by just how gorgeous captivating the design is.

It’s a smartphone that is hard to put down. It’s a thin, bezel-less smartphone that has a fingerprint scanner on the back and the name ‘Nokia’ and ‘Android One’ carved into the design.

The design and looks are increasingly playing an important role - apart from the camera - in the overall success of a smartphone. The review unit I received was black with copper edges. The design does a great job of hiding the antenna lines and the paint coating, six-layers deep, is near impossible to scratch off.

The device is noticeably light and minimal. It’s a simple yet gorgeous design. Classy yet understated. It’s a delight to hold and grip on a daily basis. There is hardly any chance of the smartphone slipping out of your hands (unless you truly are butterfingers). It may not be as sleek as a Samsung Galaxy S9+ and may be slightly thicker, but that doesn’t negate its positives.

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The volume and power buttons have the exact same copper coating and feature on the right-hand side. On the left, we have the SIM tray. The headphone jack is at the top and a USB-C port at the bottom.

Coming to the display. The 6-inch FHD+ display features bright and vivid colours and doesn’t leave a strain on the eye when using outside in the harsh rays of the sun. I’ve been using the device to do all my social networking stuff and watching IPL matches on Hotstar (it is truly cricket season). The colour reproduction was pretty accurate and I even had a couple of people happily watch with me on the Delhi Metro.

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Learning from their shortcomings?

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing the Nokia 6 and the Nokia 8. One of the things I quickly noticed about these smartphones was the fact that despite them using pure Android OS, they lagged pretty quickly after usage. The Nokia 6 was far worse than most other smartphones I had tested in 2017.

“Lag. Laggy. Laggiest. Yes, the Nokia 6 lags behind the competition massively,” is what I had written in my review last year.

I’m happy to report that with a renewed focus on performance - the company has reiterated this multiple times - the Nokia 7 Plus surges ahead in speed (albeit still lagging behind the OnePlus 6) thanks to its uncluttered pure Android 8.1 Oreo software and robust performance from the Snapdragon 660.

The Snapdragon 660 processor is snappy, efficient, and really works well on a day-to-day basis. It happily handled switching between all my social media apps, playing a couple of games and having about 25-30 tabs on Chrome open. I rarely noticed reloading of apps - though it did happen when I least expected it - and the fluidity of the software really impressed me.

Still the king of battery life

Just like last year, Nokia didn’t tinker much with the battery on their newly released line of smartphones. The Nokia 7 Plus comes with a 3,800 mAh battery, Again, like last years models, the one thing that has remained constant has been battery life.

The Nokia 7 Plus easily got to one and a half days, sometimes more, before the need to reach for a charger. That, my friends, is commendable. Very few smartphones - a growing list - can get you to day two with plenty of battery to spare. Smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S9+, Huawei P20 Lite, Oppo F7, Honor 7A and more don’t even reach the end of the day.

The smartphone was used under conditions that a normal average consumer would face. Watching videos, taking photos - especially selfies - playing games, multitasking and responding to incessant WhatsApp messages.

There is only one thing I can point to here that is negative. Despite coming with Quick Charge 3.0, the Nokia 7 Plus lags behind many other smartphones in terms of charging speeds. It’s no deal-breaker, but if you’re in a rush often, then you might be disappointed more often than not.

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The all-important camera

We’re finally here. The point in the review where I talk about the camera. It’s become a differentiating factor from one smartphone to another. I often get questions like, “What’s the best camera in a smartphone in a particular price range” and so on.

I can safely say that except the Honor 10, the Nokia 7 Plus has the best camera on any smartphone under Rs 33,000. In good daylight conditions, the photos taken from the Nokia 7 Plus turned out to be stunning.

Where the Nokia 7 Plus did lag behind was in low-light. Then again, no phone under Rs 40,000 will deliver quality low-light photos.

In terms of sharpness and noise reduction, the Nokia 7 Plus outshines the competition, and with each software update, will only get better.

One other area where the smartphone lags is in the bokeh mode. It was truly disappointing to see a smartphone camera of this calibre fail in the ‘Portrait Mode’ shots. Bokeh shots are those where the subject is in focus and the background is all blurred. Then again, how much bokeh differs from user to user.

The camera features autofocus PDAF phase detection that uses dual pixel technology. This helps the camera become incredibly fast. The Nokia 7 Plus does not oversaturate the images, and that’s definitely a good thing. The ZEISS Optics seem to have made a huge difference to the Nokia 7 Plus’ camera.

The front-facing 16-megapixel ‘selfie’ camera exceeded my expectations. It won’t blow the competition - the likes of Vivo and Oppo - out of the water, but will do a decent enough job for all your Snapchats and whatnot.

Here are some samples shot with the Nokia 7 Plus:

Worthy of being a Nokia workhorse?

Let’s just bring it all back, shall we? The Nokia 7 Plus delivers incredible performance in a gorgeous package at an appealing price of just Rs 25,999. It’s 18:9 display shines with the help of its uncluttered operating system and the Snapdragon 660 ensures a lag-free performance.

One thing I would have liked is a slightly more aggressive pricing. Rs 25,999 isn’t bad per se, but pricing it at Rs 22,999 or so would have knocked the competition out of the park.

It may not be the best smartphone on paper, and people may still not trust Nokia (yes, there are a lot of naysayers out there), but if you want a dependable smartphone with no real deal-breakers, then look no further than the Nokia 7 Plus.

A no-nonsense Android One smartphone from the stable of Nokia? Sign me up.

First published: 28 May 2018, 16:59 IST
 
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.

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